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Nicotine is the main ingredient in cigarettes and it is very addictive. When you begin to quit using cigarettes or cigars, your body craves the nicotine. When someone who is trying to quit smoking does not satisfy those cravings, they may begin having headaches, an upset stomach, or may feel grouchy.

Luckily, there are medications that you can buy on your own or with a prescription from your doctor that can help ease these ill feelings. In fact, people who use such medications have double or triple the chances of quitting as those who try to quit on their own. Learn more about why nicotine is so addictive.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of medicine to help with quitting smoking?

There are 2 main types of medications to help you quit:

  • Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs)
    • Nicotine patch (You can buy it with or without a prescription)
    • Nicotine gum (with or without a prescription)
    • Nicotine lozenge (with or without a prescription)
    • Nicotine spray prescription
    • Nicotine inhaler prescription
  • Medicines you take by mouth
    • Buproprion (Zyban) prescription
    • Varenicline (Chantix) prescription

How do nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) work?

NRTs help with cravings and other symptoms of nicotine withdrawal (like feeling grouchy, having a headache or upset stomach). NRTs come with different amounts of nicotine, depending on how much you used to smoke. As you smoke less, you get a smaller dose until you can quit for good.

How do Bupropion (Zyban) and Varenicline (Chantix) work?

These medicines affect the parts of your brain that keep you addicted and craving nicotine. Varenicline actually blocks nicotine from reaching the parts of your brain that make you feel good when you smoke. Learn more about how to choose a quit smoking medicine.

How do I choose the right medicine for me?

Most smokers will get help from any of the medicines listed above. However, each smoker will have a different experience. Some medicines may be more helpful than others, depending on how often you smoke, how much you smoke, how you’ve tried to quit before, or how your health is now.

 

If you can, talk to your doctor before starting any new medicines. For medicines you can buy in the drug store, read all of the information on the box carefully. Here are some things to think about as you decide which medication to choose:

  • Nicotine patches are easy to use and you only have to put one on a day.
  • Nicotine gum, lozenges, and inhalers let you control how much nicotine you get so you can help control your cravings.
  • Nicotine nasal spray works fast to stop cravings when you need it.
  • Nicotine inhalers let you keep the feeling of cigarettes by holding the inhaler and puffing.
  • Both inhalers and nasal sprays require a doctor’s prescription.
  • Buproprion (Zyban) is a pill taken two times a day, is very safe, and helps with cravings.
  • Varenicline (Chantix) is a pill taken two times a day and may work very well for heavy smokers.

Learn more about how to choose a quit smoking medicine.

Are nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) safe?

NRTs are very safe. They give small, steady amounts of nicotine in a much slower way than when smoking a cigarette. Plus, they do not have any of thousands of harmful chemicals that cause cancer that are in cigarettes. NRTs have been used by millions of people to quit smoking successfully and safely. NRTs will NOT cause:

  • Heart attacks
  • Impotence
  • Cancer
  • Hair loss

 

In fact, you are more likely to get these if you continue to smoke! You should talk to your doctor before starting NRTs if you:

  • Have had a recent heart attack
  • Have an irregular heartbeat
  • Have uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Are under the age of 18, or
  • Are pregnant

Are nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) addictive?

You will not become addicted to NRTs if you use them the right way. Addiction is based on how fast the nicotine gets into the body. NRTs release nicotine very slowly. Cigarettes send nicotine to the blood and brain very quikly. While NRTs take away some of the urge to smoke, they do not give the same feelings of pleasure as cigarettes.

My friend could not quit with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). How do I know it will work for me?

Quitting smoking is different for everyone. Two people can use the same type of NRT —such as gum—and have very different experiences. Set the date you want to quit and make a plan for yourself on how to do it. If you are going to use NRT, pick one that you are comfortable with and know how to use. Your quit plan can also have other things besides NRT, such as exercise and diet change.

Learn more about how to choose a quit smoking medicine.

How do I get these medicines? How much do they cost? Will my insurance pay for them?

Some medicines require a prescription from your doctor, while others do not. If you can buy it with no prescription it is called ‘over-the-counter’ or OTC. If you can get them with a prescription, your insurance may pay for it. If you have health insurance through Medicaid, you can get quit aids for as little as $1 (see Table 2).

Some medicines require a prescription from your doctor, while others do not. If you can buy it with no prescription it is called ‘over-the-counter’ or OTC.If you can get them with a prescription, your insurance may pay for it. If you have health insurance through Medicaid, you can get quit aids for as little as $1 (see Table 2).

Table 1: Costs for Quit Smoking Aids by Private Insurers


Medication
Available by prescription or
Over-the-counter (OTC)?
Cost without a prescription Do most private insurance companies cover this type?**
Nicotine patch OTC
(and prescription)
$80-$100/month No
Nicotine gum OTC
(and prescription)
$90-$180/month No
Nicotine lozenge OTC
(and prescription)
$60-$120/month No
Nicotine spray Prescription $150-$300/month yes

Nicotine inhaler

Prescription

$150-$300/month

yes

Buproprion (Zyban)

Prescription

$120/month

yes

Varenicline (Chantix)

Prescription $120/month Sometimes



**There are multiple private insurers, so we have provided information on the most common type of coverage available for these medications. 

 

 

Table 2: Quit smoking medication coverage through Philadelphia Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs)

 

Type  of Quit Smoking Aid

What you pay (co-payment)

 

Nicotine
Patch
Nicotine
Gum
Nicotine Lozenge Nicotine Nasal Spray Nicotine Inhaler Bupropion Varenicline
(Chantix)

Aetna Better Health*

yes yes yes yes yes yes yes $0 generic
$0-3 brand

AmeriChoice*

yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
(6 month limit)
$1 generic
$3 brand

CoventryCares

yes yes yes PA/E PA/E yes PA/E $1

Health Partners*

yes yes yes yes yes yes PA/E $1 generic
$3 brand

Keystone Mercy

yes yes yes PA/E yes yes yes
(6 month limit)
$1 generic
$3 brand

PA/E= These are only covered with prior authorization or exception process

*Information valid as of February 2011.  Aetna Better Health, AmeriChoice, and Health Partners insures patients for combined therapy, or use of multiple types of NRT at the same time

 

Resources

 

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